Senate confirms Trump court pick despite missing two 'blue slips'

 
Senators voted 53-46 on Eric Miller's nomination, making him the 31st appeals judge confirmed since Trump took office in January 2017. 
 
Miller is the first circuit court nominee to be confirmed without a blue slip from either home-state senator, with neither Sens. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: White House goes public with attacks on Fauci | Newsom orders California to shut down indoor activities, all bar operations | Federal judges block abortion ban laws in Tennessee, Georgia Senate Democrats call for B for vaccine production, distribution in next package GOP Health Committee chair says he disagrees with Trump's WHO decision MORE (D-Wash.) nor Maria CantwellMaria Elaine CantwellOvernight Energy: Supreme Court reinstates fast-track pipeline permit except for Keystone XL | Judge declines to reverse Dakota Access Pipeline shutdown OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog accuses Commerce of holding up 'Sharpiegate' report | Climate change erases millennia of cooling: study | Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget Senate nixes proposal limiting Energy Department's control on nuclear agency budget MORE (D-Wash.) returning the sheet of paper that indicates if they support him. 
 
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Murray warned minutes ahead of the vote that Miller's nomination was putting the Senate on a "very dangerous path." 
 
"Republican leaders are now barreling towards a confirmation vote on a 9th Circuit nominee, a flash point that, if it succeeds, will mark a massive departure from the long-standing bipartisan process that has been in place for generations," Murray said from the Senate floor.
 
Cantwell added that the "confirmation process has, I believe, gone against long-standing Senate traditions, norms and the role of advise and consent to his nomination."   
 
It's the latest escalation of a years-long fight over the blue slip, with Democrats accusing Republicans of trying to defang the minority by moving nominations without support from home-state senators. 

The blue-slip rule — a precedent upheld by Senate tradition — has historically allowed a home-state senator to stop a lower-court nominee by refusing to return the blue slip to the Judiciary Committee.

How strictly the precedent is upheld is decided by the committee chairman, and enforcement has varied depending on who wields the gavel.

But it's emerged as a flashpoint during the Trump administration as several Democratic senators have refused to return their paperwork on circuit court nominees from their home states, setting up a round of fights between Democrats and the White House.

Several circuit nominees were confirmed last year despite not receiving a blue slip from one of the home-state senators. 
 
Republicans also brought 9th Circuit nominee Ryan Bounds to the floor despite not receiving a blue slip from either Oregon Democratic Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyHillicon Valley: QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem | Supreme Court upholds regulation banning robocalls to cellphones | Foreign hackers take aim at homebound Americans | Uber acquires Postmates QAnon scores wins, creating GOP problem Democratic senator will introduce bill mandating social distancing on flights after flying on packed plane MORE or Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTrump administration to impose tariffs on French products in response to digital tax Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Congress must act now to fix a Social Security COVID-19 glitch and expand, not cut, benefits MORE, but his nomination was withdrawn after Sen. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump takes on CDC over schools Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Tim Scott says he's talking with House Democrats about reviving police reform bill MORE (R-S.C.) indicated that he wouldn't support him. 
 
The Senate Judiciary Committee voted out Miller's nomination along party lines earlier this month. 
 
Democrats were infuriated when Republicans held a hearing for Miller during the October recess last year when most lawmakers were out of town.
 
GOP aides argued that Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGraham says he will call Mueller to testify before Senate panel about Russia probe Data shows seven Senate Democrats have majority non-white staffs Bottom line MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the panel, had agreed to the dates, but Democrats say they did not agree to move forward if the Senate was not in session.
 
Only two senators of the then-21-member panel attended the hearing, with Miller only getting asked two questions by Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoSenate panel to vote on controversial Trump Fed pick Shelton GOP skeptical of polling on Trump GOP: Trump needs a new plan MORE (R-Idaho).
 
 
"He will make decisions on our nation's most important issues and will have the power to change Americans' lives," said Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoThe robbing of a wildlife refuge in Nevada Senators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Klobuchar withdraws from Biden VP contention MORE (D-Nev.). "Yet this Republican leadership believes a five-minute hearing is enough for a circuit court nominee who doesn't have the support of his own home-state senators."
 
Republicans have dismissed Democratic complaints, noting that Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidMcConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule Filibuster reform gains steam with Democrats The Hill's Morning Report - Trump wants executive order on policing; silent on pending bills MORE (D-Nev.), got rid of the 60-vote filibuster for lower court nominations in 2013, ensuring an appeals judge could be confirmed by a simple majority.
 
 
"All in all, his classmates, many of whom have also been his colleagues over the years, say that Mr. Miller is, 'extraordinarily well-qualified' to serve as a federal judge," he said. "I would urge each of my colleagues to join me in voting for this fine nominee soon." 
 
Grassley also sent a letter to Murray and Cantwell late last year saying they had not returned their blue slips but also not given any "substantive reasons for your opposition."
 
"My preliminary conclusion is that the White House staff attempted to engage in meaningful consultation with you but that their engagement was not reciprocated," Grassley wrote in the letter. "I believe the White House engaged in meaningful consultation with you regarding the Ninth Circuit vacancy in Washington."